In the headlights, fingers of fog weave
over the road, a seamstress just beginning
to patch together the loss of hours and years,
the maybe not and the not there yet.
I drive three hours to my mother’s house,
arrive an hour later than she expects,
still she’s waiting with dinner. She’s
seventy something, I’m forty-six, we’re still
mother and son. Before I’m finished with
the salad, she wants me to accompany her
to two parties this evening: a birthday
and a retirement. Between the roast beef
and mashed potatoes, it’s all guilt. I continue
to say, “No,” mentioning the chainsaw and splitting
wood for the stove, playing basketball with my son
and friends, and, of course, the drive, and in case
exhaustion isn’t enough, I accept the label
of neglectful son, and whatever else she serves up.
Plato, Socrates’ prize student, when he was eighty,
attended a pupil’s wedding party,
and during the celebration retired
to a corner of the villa to sleep in a chair.
He stayed there until the all-night revelers
returned in the morning to wake him,
but he had slept too far into the Elysian fields,
leaving us with the question: Is it marriage
or a party that leads to the death of philosophy?
by Walter Bargen
Walter Bargen has published 21 books of poetry. Recent books include: Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems (BkMk Press, 2009), Trouble Behind Glass Doors (BkMk Press, 2013), Perishable Kingdoms (Grito del Lobo Press, 2017), and Too Quick for the Living (Moon City Press, 2017). His awards include: a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the William Rockhill Nelson Award. He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009).www.walterbargen.com
Inside one Russian doll is another,
dressed in a different nationality
and inside that one is yet another.
and so on until all of them
gang up and storm the opera house
demanding to see the mayor.
Which of them crossed the border
may depend on fingerprints
and the next referendum.
As one nation collapses,
another rises up from the same dolls,
each a pawn in a clever sacrifice.
So now the earth is flat
Since nothing’s truly round
Not even a plutocrat
Rolls without a sound
On wildlife habitat
Hydraulic drilling pounds
Skinning mountains flat
Unearthing sacred mounds
The Fed’s still keeping track
Of stocks that leap and bound
Payback for any kickback
Their graphs are never round.
In jazz clubs singers scat
Because the earth is flat
Keep both feet on the ground
by Michael Karl Ritchie
Michael Karl Ritchie is a retired Professor of English from Arkansas Tech University with work published in various small press magazines, including The Mississippi Review, Margie, OR Panthology – Ocellus Reseau. He has had three small press chapbook publications and Winter Goose Press has just published his collection of poems Ampleforth’s Miscellany (2017).
When your eyes suddenly fell out,
leaving you blind as a bowl of soup,
you frantically began feeling around the floor.
On your hands and knees, crawling carefully
to make sure you didn’t crush
one of them with your four-legged steps.
Feeling nothing but grunge and grime on the that old linoleum,
you became more panicked with each passing second,
realizing, now that your eyes have fallen out,
just how filthy this world has truly become.
The spirit has slowly evaporated,
gradually turned jaded throughout the years,
quelled, wrecked by the jarring persistence of cacophony
that pours through the veins and hallways of this world.
Inspiration melted to a feeble pulp by the noisy noose
of the boisterous trucks and verbose dogs
that populate the neighborhood, filling the air,
the never-silent wind, with an incessant clamor.
The poet’s soul will soon be laid to rest among the din.
The Prevalence of Nothingness
Churning the nothingness into a somethingness
is tried. Doesn’t work.
Maybe half-works since I see
in the abandoned parking lot.
It’s like they’re living my youth
which allows me to vicariously relive it myself.
Hail pours from the sky.
Gravity still works.
That is, at least, for now.
by Heath Brougher
Heath Brougher is the poetry editor of Into the Void Magazine, winner of the 2017 and 2018 Saboteur Award for Best Magazine. He is a multiple nominee for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Award. His newest book is “To Burn in Torturous Algorithms” (Weasel Press, 2018). His work has appeared in journals such as Taj Mahal Review, Chiron Review, MiPOesias, and Main Street Rag.
Whatever they wanted; I didn’t care one way or the other.
I didn’t care if the handicapped wife fell in the well
or the bad guy said he’d save her and didn’t
Or when later, her so over souped corpse
(this discretely off-camera)
was falling off the bone
And the righteous husband, asked by the honest retriever
if he wanted the head…
Take it or leave it, made no never mind to me.
Then…in the distance…the masked rider
galloping towards us
a savior, female,
the tension palpable as she nears…
(think Meryl Streep I’m told)
Could it be?
The return of the white hair woman!
Note for revision:
Introduce white hair woman before her return.
The righteous husband heads off with his young’ns and
the white hair woman to high prairie climes
dusted with snow and newly minted men.
Everything there is for the taking.
Everyone’s a pioneer.
And no one ever goes to the movies.
by Mark Stein
Mark Stein’s poetry and creative non-fiction has appeared in Exposition Review, Eclectica, Nimrod, Michigan Quarterly Review, Madison Review and Moment. His plays have been produced at Manhattan Theatre Club, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theater of Louisville, South Coast Repertory, Manitoba Theatre Centre, LA’s Fountain Theater, and most recently an award-winning production at Chicago’s Raven Theater of Direct from Death Row the Scottsboro Boys. He wrote the screenplay for the Steve Martin/Goldie Hawn film, Housesitter, and the New York Times Best Seller, How the States Got Their Shapes, which became the basis for a History Channel series by the same name. His other non-fiction books include American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why; Vice Capades: Sex, Drugs, and Bowling from the Pilgrims to the Present.
A relentless South Texas wind poses impossible questions,
Flaps the smirking flags until they are upturned,
Mists the mown grass with evil’s sputum,
Ripples the lone unarmed security guard’s shirt
As he waves concentration camp employees
In and out of the unremarkable office park parking lot.
Outside the Casa El Presidente tender-age detention facility
Where children as young as one-month live in cages,
I wonder: How durable is the machinery of the state?
How many of us would it take
To brush past the guard in blue short sleeves
And blue shorts set against a darkening blue sky,
Bald, or head shaved—I can’t tell which with the sun
Dipping lower and lower into the night’s waiting grave—
And set free the children?
One? Ten? One hundred?
Does America’s strength reside in this man’s
Minimum-wage-routine, his indifferent pacing?
Do they that hired him have children, believe in love?
How does he feel standing there as darkness falls
And he becomes an inhuman shape silhouetted
Against an inhuman panorama of wind-tossed stars
And a low-slung office building where little children
Sleep the sleep of those who have lost everything?
I came here to bear witness.
I came to take a sabbatical from business-as-usual.
What I’ve found is the unimaginable turned banal,
Like a nuclear detonation mentioned in passing
Before CNN cuts for a commercial break.
The sun disappears. No one bothers to reach for a flashlight:
Nothing to see; the office curtains are drawn.
The night-shift staff arrives to relieve the day-shift
Like nameless mechanics just doing their job,
For in America we all have jobs, we do them well
And without complaint,
And we quiet our minds with the faith
That hard work can set us free.
by Andy Posner
Andy Posner is a resident of Dedham, Massachusetts. He grew up in Los Angeles and received his Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Culture from California State University, Northridge. He moved to New England in 2007 to pursue an MA in Environmental Studies at Brown University. While there, he founded Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit that provides small personal loans and financial coaching to low-income families. When not working, he enjoys reading, writing, cycling, and ranting about the state of the world.
Lives in the shadow of the Diner sign,
his bed a shadowy blue neon 24/7.
Ain’t nothin’ much in Ludlow—Abe
sells gas and gives directions to tourists
travelling the infamous Route 66.
Just over the tracks, the house where he was raised.
Main house and staff house, nary a window between
them both. He parks there sometimes,
watches the train through the ruined doors,
front and back frames open to the odd fox
Abe had his first proper kiss in that staff house.
It was spring, the dry ground blossom-rich
with yellow flowers, cholla standing straight
and proud as always. And Mary, a compass
of thought and feeling across her sunlit face,
knew Abe’s loneliness; she was a friend first,
A sweet string of years, here and gone,
never forgotten. The streets go about their rhythms,
wind and weather mark the calendar, and every spring
the full moon bears the aching beauty of Mary,
her hand on his face as she kissed him one last time,
then boarded the train, the silhouette of her burning
through her thin flowered dress, lodging in his heart.
She runs miles each day.
Even when the clouds are fraught
with snow. Even when the sun
shoots arrows through eyes.
She runs as if escaping,
and in truth, she is.
Demons from old struggles
follow from her days
to her nightmares.
A couple shots of Cuervo Gold
buys a couple hours
of dreamless sleep,
before it starts again.
Her choice of road rises
into foothills while dust devils
rake the desert floor below.
She climbs the distance
ravens climb. Cactus gives way
to fir, fir gives way to rock,
and still she runs.
A quick wind creases the air,
warns her to turn around.
Look at the horses already
reined in and protected,
the cottonwoods darkening
with oncoming weather,
not oncoming night.
Go home the voice in her says,
before the storm comes.
Runoff hustling over river stones
makes a good run a trackless
pick-your-path and don’t stop run.
Daytime fright with no tequila,
go home. So she turns back.
She is driven but not unwise.
She hits her door. The alarm clock
of the desert’s slow and seamless hours
by Tobi Alfier
Tobi Alfier (Cogswell) is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. Her chapbook “Down Anstruther Way” (Scotland poems) was published by FutureCycle Press. Her full-length collection “Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where” was published by Aldrich Press. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” was just published by Cholla Needles Press. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).